Marking Thought and Talk in New Testament Greek: New Light from Linguistics on the Particles ἴνα and ὅτι

By Margaret G. Sim

A valuable contribution to linguistic studies bringing new insight to the translation and study of key passages in the Gospels and other New Testament texts.

ISBN: 9780227173770


Aimed at both biblical scholars and those interested in linguistic theory, this book makes use of insights from a modern theory of communication, Relevance Theory, in examining the function of the particle ἴνα in New Testament Greek.

Challenging accepted wisdom, Margaret Sim claims that the particle does not have a lexical meaning of ‘in order that’, but that it alerts the reader to expect an interpretation of the thought or attitude of the implied speaker or author. Evidence is adduced from pagan Greek and in particular the writings of Polybius, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and Epictetus, as well as the New Testament. The implications of this claim open up opportunities for fresh interpretation of many problematic texts.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Margaret G. Sim is an International Translation Consultant with SIL and has been lecturing in New Testament at Africa International University since 1992.


Foreword by Larry W. Hurtado

1. Introduction
2. Theoretical Basis for Study
3. Independent Clauses Introduced by ἴνα
4. Requests, Commands, Prayers Introduced by ἴνα
5. Noun Clauses Introduced by ἴνα
6. Purpose Clauses Introduced by ἴνα
7. Investigating ὅτι
8. Diachronic Use of ἴνα
9. Conclusion

Scripture and Ancient Sources Index
Author Index


Endorsements and Reviews

This timely and fascinating study is of interest, not only to biblical scholars, but also to those interested in linguistic theory. Margaret Sim’s original study of the ‘purpose’ marker ἴνα utilises the notion of metarepresentation, familiar from Relevance Theory, to provide new insight into the interpretation of certain key texts in the Gospels. In so doing, she shows how the ideas of theoretical pragmatics can be brought to bear on the study of other fields to enable new and exciting perspectives to be opened up on difficult problems of translation and interpretation.
Ronnie Cann, University of Edinburgh

A model dissertation accounting for an important, long-ignored question. Literary and non-literary extra-biblical sources have been considered and the perspective is diachronic, distinguishing earlier and later usage from that of the New Testament. It is grounded in linguistic theory but free of jargon and intelligible to those not trained in Linguistics.
Carl W. Conrad, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

This is a major, innovative thesis in which insights from linguistic study (Relevance Theory) are used to free our understanding of the Greek particle ἴνα from the shackles of a fixed lexical meaning to one that is based on the communicator’s intention, thus widening its scope from the traditional translation as ‘in order that’ (purpose). The implications of this carefully argued monograph for the interpretation of theological texts in the New Testament, especially those that are generally assumed to deal with divine purposes, are highly significant.
I. Howard Marshall, University of Aberdeen

Dr Margaret Sim has an excellent solution to the problem that one Greek word can introduce very different clauses – expressing purpose or result, but also requests wishes and opinions. Using Relevance Theory from linguistics, and well aware of the long history of the Greek language, she infers that we do not have a word with one meaning which has been ‘weakened,’ but rather a word whose function is to signal a thought about a state of affairs which is potential rather than actual. Drawing examples from wider Hellenistic Greek, and from our own use of language, she throws a flood of light on difficult biblical passages.
David Mealand, University of Edinburgh